I have some great interviews cookin’, but none ready to come out of the oven this week! So I thought I’d put together a compilation of music, an art form so many of the visual artists I interview talk about as a great love and inspiration of theirs. It’s also what I turn to when I can’t get the words flowing. I focused on live musical performances, and, though I didn’t plan it, many of these are cover versions of songs by other artists — which goes to show they’re all being inspired by each other! Enjoy this little musical side trip from my normal in-depth interviews.
The Black Eyed Peas
Here are the Black Eyed Peas performing live in Chicago at the kick-off party for Oprah’s 24th season of her show. The record-breaking flash mob of 20,000 dancers rehearsed this audience performance as a surprise to Oprah, and the excitement of the moment can’t help but make your day.
(Note: The 480 pixel wide version I embedded originally was disabled, and this 425 pixel version was supplied by Harpo Productions. You can flip to full-screen mode by clicking the lower right icon in the video window.)
Annie Lennox and David Bowie
Here are the great Annie Lennox and David Bowie performing together live at a Freddie Mercury tribute concert. Their voices meld beautifully, and it’s great to see the camaraderie of these two veterans. The meaning of the lyrics really stands out in this performance, and the huge audience is right there with them.
Gladys Knight & The Pips
I love this uptempo performance of I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Gladys Knight and The Pips at the 1972 Save the Children concert in Chicago. Even as a kid, I thought her voice was amazing — and I loved those damn Pips! Gladys’ dress reminds me of the muumuus and other groovy attire guests wore at the backyard pool cocktail parties in Los Angeles our next door neighbors used to throw when I was a kid trying to fall asleep. Who knew those sleepless evenings staring out my bedroom window at the adult commotion would inspire me to this day?
As long as I’m including covers by other artists, let’s continue with the fearless Adam Lambert, performing in two live performances here. The first is in Philadelphia on the 2009 American Idol tour, singing a medley of David Bowie classics (Life on Mars, Fame, and Let’s Dance). His huge voice and strong theater background are evident here, and his sexy dancing will make you want to hop on stage with him (or, you know, just watch).
The second video is Adam performing live in New York’s Central Park singing Starlight by the band Muse. The sweet and rich tone of his voice is incredible and demonstrates the range of what he can do. Adam is well on his way, deservedly so.
Adam was very recently in Denver recording his debut album (on sale late November 2009) at the in-home studio of Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, mere blocks from my house! Oh, well…it’s probably better that I didn’t know this at the time.
Note: Adam’s videos are occasionally taken down, so I’ve had to swap in a lower quality sound version of the second video — sorry!
Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola, and John McLaughlin
Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola, and John McLaughlin (left to right), performing Mediterranean Sundance (written by Al Di Meola) live at the Pavarotti and Friends concert in 2006. The speed their fingers fly will blow your mind. And since I have an earlier recording of this on CD and each note is permanently imprinted on my brain, I can attest to the fact that they are not improvising and every note is played faithfully.
Here is Nelly Furtado live in London singing Get Ur Freak On, a remix collaboration with Missy Elliot. The song is interesting for its mix of a beat based on bhangra, a popular dance and music form from India, and for its use of both Hindi and Japanese lyrics. And Nelly Furtado’s studio version incorporates her own strengths mixing hip-hop, scat, and her Portuguese/Canadian culture. I wish I could have found the video of her stunning, pared down acoustic version of this, but it has been taken down. In the meantime, enjoy this very lively version.
The John Mayer Trio
Sit back and enjoy this live performance by The John Mayer Trio of California Dreamin’ on Conan O’Brien. It’s hard to imagine a version that can challenge the original by The Mamas and the Papas, but this is pretty great.
This live performance by Sting of Desert Rose at his Italian villa has an interesting story behind it. This was a dress rehearsal on the evening of September 10, 2001, and the documentary this comes from shows Sting and the band finding out the news of the next day and grappling with the decision of whether to perform as planned on September 11. They did, though the mood was understandably somber. So here they are — Sting, Algerian singer Cheb Mami, and the rest of the crew embracing a multicultural moment in bliss.
Here is the very talented KT Tunstall live at the Hootenanny doing a cover of I Want You Back by The Jackson 5. Note the way she cleverly records her own strumming and percussion in the beginning. She was born and raised in Scotland and, like many UK natives, has a deep appreciation for soulful American music and artists. This is the last cover song of this group, which leads us to our last artist.
Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)
Here is the late Michael Jackson performing Man in the Mirror. I wish this tortured soul had had as much love for himself as he had for the world. The last couple of minutes of this performance are pure gospel. Stand up in the Church of Michael.
I love all music, whether I know the artist or not, whether I speak the language or not. If you have favorites you’d like me to include the next time I put together such a compilation, please send me your suggestions!
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